The Folksy uprising

There’s been a lot of anger in the online handmade community over the last 24 hours stemming from an update to Folksy‘s rules (which you can find here). I think the main problem is there are a lot of vague areas between their interpretation of handmade vs hand assembled, of which I asked to give my opinion and was granted the opportunity. I have pasted below what I wrote and hopefully I should get a reply soon. It’s not the most eloquent piece of writing but I think it gets the point across how you must absolutely word things spot on otherwise any ambiguity can seriously damage your reputation and upset a lot of people.

Because of this, several people on Facebook and Twitter have closed their Folksy shops. My personal opinion is this is a premature action as a lot of those shops were operating within what I suspect the rules were trying to say, and some people will just not have read everything properly before jumping on the bandwagon with their fire and pitchforks, as is the case in any conflict humans tend to find themselves in!

Anyway, here’s my e-mail, please let me know your thoughts in a comment if you’d like to and you can always contact Folksy with your opinions on their support@folksy.com e-mail address.

***

Hello,
 
Apologies for this being from my work e-mail, I wanted to make sure it arrived and if you had any responses that I would get them as I am having some computer issues at home and will be running a reformat later.
 
As promised on Twitter due to a bit of an uproar that has arisen due to the new rules on what is deemed as “handcrafted” rather than “assembled”, hopefully this will be useful, but if it’s rubbish I don’t mind, I just hate to see so many friends and acquaintances get so upset, especially since Folksy is a great selling venue and certainly the leading UK site. I have been with Folksy since I believe the very first week and have extensive experience within the craft marketplace, whether as a seller, a magazine editor, a workshop leader, a writer, or as an administrator of a forum (I also hope to write my PhD thesis on this little community!), so I hope I can give a bit of perspective as to why this has become such an issue and so quickly.
 
I must tell you that I do agree on your stance as putting together a gift basket or putting a charm on a chain is not craft as it doesn’t require any particular craftsman skill, knowledge or practice that a normal person does not possess and I do see the need for this to be in the rules, along with the stance that copyright violation will not be tolerated (however I have seen someone on your site ripping off another designer and told the original craftsperson this weekend and I am sure she has been in touch with you over it!).
 
With mainstream craft, most areas will use something that has been manufactured, whether it is resin for resin jewellery, thread for embroidery, beads for jewellery making or wool in a knitted jumper. It could even go as far as glue and paper for making notebooks or cards. For some of these areas it is easy to identify that a lot of creative input into using these supplies has been put into play.
 
However, there are some areas where this new rule is not so clear cut and therefore unfortuantely the rules are still too vague, my first thoughts are:
– Melt and pour base soaps
– Teacup candles
– Jewellery with bezels and licensed artwork (or scrabble tile pendants, etc)
– Simple strung beaded necklaces/ childrens bracelets, etc
– recycled glass bottles slumped as spoon rests
– Rubber stamped notecards/bookmarks
 
It is very clear that the current craft trends are leaning towards jewellery and card making, and unfortunately for Folksy, these are the vaguest areas when taking into account the rule clarification.
 
I would suggest that to differentiate between earrings that are a pair of studs stuck to a pair of buttons for example (literal assemblage) and a pair of earrings that have been made from buttons wired together (original design) you could ask that more than one process has gone into the creation of an item, or a slightly easier option would be that the piece has taken longer than five minutes to create, for example. A simple strung necklace due to knotting, attaching clasps, etc will easily take longer than this, however simply putting a brass charm on a chain doesn’t which I think shows the difference between the areas you are trying to put across. Also picture examples of “dos and don’ts” might help too! By putting in examples I think people will feel a bit less alienated.
 
This is how I would have worded this section in the rules- I wouldn’t even have the two sections as I think it makes it unneccessarily complicated:

“In order to sell your item on Folksy, your item must be made to your own design, or by the use of a pattern or clip art licensed for commercial use. You cannot sell a design that has been copied from someone else without their explicit permission to do so in accordance with UK copyright law. Your item must be “handmade”, and NOT simply “hand assembled”. At Folksy, “hand assembled” applies to any item that is made by attaching two mass produced components together, for example stringing a charm onto a chain, or gluing a button to a ring blank or notecard and selling as a finished piece of work. A “handmade” item would take a minimum of five minutes to make and contain elements of design, personality or skill from the crafter, for example a rubber stamped greetings card would show understanding of layout or a beaded necklace would show colour co-ordination.”

Even then, I’d get people on the forum or as blog comments to see whether I am on the mark here or not, I may be missing something massively obvious but I really don’t think it needs to be complicated!

Also I think it is quite difficult to enforce the use of licensed clipart, patterns released for reproduction, etc and that some leeway should be made from Folksy to allow these sorts of works that are not violating any copyright laws or plagarising anyone else’s designs. I think you might have hinted that this is OK but it is not clear enough when you mention “this item may not be made by you” in the current rules but I think it could be read differently by different people so I have altered that bit too. 

Anyway thanks for letting me stick my oar in, I hope it has been at least a little useful!

***
James at Folksy has just replied so I have put his response below- I would have hoped for something a bit more detailed since I wrote at length (I am usually so concise!) but never mind…

 

From: james

Subject: Wording of new rule – as discussed on Twitter!

Thank you for your reply and for taking time to think about this.

We do understand that the terms are not as definite as people would like, however, craft and ‘handmade’ are not easy to define. We’ve taken on board your points about being more specific and including examples and will look to review our terms again in the coming hours and days to try and improve them.

Best wishes,

James @ Folksy

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12 Comments

  1. Posted September 7, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I like your thoughts 🙂 I wouldn’t worry about the short reply, I think they will take it on board and look into their wording. I imagine their inboxes are spilling over at the minute 🙂 Great job 🙂

  2. Posted September 7, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

    A very well written letter Kerry! I don’t think anyone could have put it better. I’m one who has left for good now, although to be fair, I’ve wound down the stock in my shop to zilch over the past months as it wasn’t working for me as a selling platfom anyway, but it’s the inconsistency & the way these new rules have been announced that was the final straw for me. They announced this on a blog post – come on Folksy, how many sellers check the Folksy blog each day, I suspect over half don’t even use the forums, so it’s only ‘the regulars’ who might ever see this announcement.
    They have also told one jewellery seller that her work isn’t considered acceptable anymore, yet another one has had it confirmed that hers is. As a jewellery maker myself, I can see no discernible difference between the skill level or design content of the 2 peoples’ work, and personally, I think both fit in under the new rules, as they are clearly handmade as opposed to assembled, but one has been told she can’t sell her work after 1st November, so they aren’t being consistent in the type of work allowed to stay.

    Blimey, I’ve written a comment nearly as long as your original letter – ooops!!!

  3. Posted September 8, 2011 at 8:57 am | Permalink | Reply

    if only they’d worded it like you Kerry there might have been less confusion!

  4. Posted September 8, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink | Reply

    Interesting post. I’ve been considering selling on Folksy for a while but I think I’ll stick with Etsy – this kerfuffle has put me right off because it suggests that the long-term effects haven’t been thought through.

  5. Posted September 8, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink | Reply

    Like Claire, I am particularly upset by the inconsistancy. I was told all my items were ok but I have some very simple things in my shop as well as more complex things. Seeing people post their disallowed items, I cannot see any real difference, craft skill wise, between their disallowed items and my apparently ok ones.
    The more I read on this issue the more upset I’m becoming. I want to stay with Folksy as its the place that got me my first non-family sales and I aren’t really elsewhere at the moment but the more upset I’m becoming the more likely I am to leave too.
    Thank you Kerry for taking the time to do this. You’re a star.
    Gemxxx

  6. Posted September 12, 2011 at 10:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    As someone who has been considering selling for a long time, your letter makes more sense to me than the newsletter I got today. I actually emailed back with a detailed description of what I do to see if I’ll be allowed to even start selling – though I did say in my email that I realise they must be inundated with emails at the moment.

    I just googled about it and you came up, I must live in a bubble as the newsletter was the first I had realised about all the upset.

    Thanks for this post.

  7. Posted September 15, 2011 at 4:39 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Great blog, really interesting 🙂

  8. Posted September 18, 2011 at 9:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    They should be offering you a job imo.

    Great work.

  9. Posted October 13, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I realize I’m a bit late seeing the dates on all these posts, but I’ve only just found out about the changes being made to Folksy!

    I would be interested to know people’s opinion on them cutting out the creams, oils and balms section. I sell cosmetics on Folksy at the moment (including soaps, bath bombs, creams etc). They have said that they are allowing soaps and bath bombs because some people buy them purely because they are decorative, whereas creams and balms are just cosmetics.

    But I think that some creams in bottles or jars can be just as decorative as bath bombs (and some bath bombs and soaps can be really plain).

    But my main thought is that making creams requires just as much thought and skill as making soap, and much more than making bath bombs. I make everything from scratch, I never use pre-made bases for soaps or creams, and I feel that this is as much a craft as anything else. I design all my recipes and packaging myself. I know that it’s different in that I make a large number of the same thing (i.e. to the same recipe), but this isn’t any different from making many items of jewelry of the same design, or making items from sewing or knitting patterns.

    I don’t know exactly what the owners of Folksy intend the site to be but I always thought it was a place to buy and sell things that were handmade and probably from small scale producers. I don’t see why handmade cosmetics don’t fit in, especially as they have already been selling cosmetics on Folksy and it seems to work.

    Anyway, I would be really interested to know what other people think about this.

  10. Posted October 16, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I am the owner and designer of a new UK hand-crafted Jewellery promotion and selling site. Our terms clearly state that assembly of components is accepted. To be honest about it we all have to start somewhere. What may seem simple to the more experienced crafter may seem complex to the beginner… hope you catch my drift? I meet many beginners who want to make simple memory wire bracelets and don’t know how to. I am quite happy to help these people get crafty and would be happy for their wares to be for sale at JewelleryJoy.co.uk. Folksy is a great site and I can accept what they are trying to do but it doesn’t fit my current thinking. I started to develop my solution in January as I saw a need for a dedicated jewellery selling site.

  11. Jen Willis
    Posted October 17, 2011 at 11:31 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi. I liked your own letter and ideas. It seems Folksy have taken on board the picture examples.

    What I would want to think about is copyright law because it is not as clear cut as one might imagine. For example – someone, perhaps a company designer, must have been the first person to design a bead wrap bracelet (the type where beads are strung between two pieces of cord of leather). Since that first ever design, many other people now make beaded wrap bracelets, they are even now mass produced and sold in boutiques. This is because the product was not patented and even if it was, people will and do make” take offs” and just ensure there are subtle differences. So as far as legislation goes, its a fine line, difficult to prove and becomes more of a moral code of ethics thing rather than a legal one.

    Much jewelry and many card designs are inspired by the latest fashions, be it steam punk, or vintage etc and they are often inspired by other designers. There would be millions of law suits if every item or design copied or semi copied came to light, and then of course one would have to prove you were the first to think of the design if it has not been patented.

    I don’t want to be negative and I understand the annoyance or even anger about copyrights – in fact I once had a great idea and made something and I saw it copied a few days later. Very annoying. But great clothes design houses know that versions of their designs will be copied albeit with a few changes.

    The point I make is that Folksy can put in place any rules and moral codes they wish (within the law) and may close anyone down if they break those rules and codes. I think what sellers feel most strongly about, is that they were not consulted and there seems to be a lack of appreciation for those of you that helped Folksy grow by selling your products with them. Companies that start off small and grow seem to forget the little persons who made it happen for them. I was not one of them, but I surly sympathize.

    Lastly, I do think their terms and conditions are too ambiguous and open to being abused or bent to suit themselves. There should be a clearer outline and I really do not think it would be hard to find the wording which explains clear definitions of hand made/crafted, versus hand assembled. Incidentally, hand assembled is by definition, hand made. I personally think sticking a few charms on is acceptable, if the buyer likes it. I cant see the problem. From what I read, this came about by the complaints of serious designers and therefore I was under the impression the whole thing came from sellers, not Folksy itself?

  12. Posted October 17, 2011 at 7:41 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Jen

    I totally agree with the things you say.

    Serious designers need to remember that we all have to start somewhere…

    I am considering a way of differentiating a persons ‘level’ at JewelleryJoy.co.uk and if any of you have any ideas then please let me know.

    Thanks
    Mark

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